iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Timothy D. Slekar

GET UPDATES FROM Timothy D. Slekar
 

'Taxpayer Advocates' Shocking Public Schools

Posted: 05/24/2011 12:00 pm

Please meet Ginger Claar.

Ginger is a wife and loving mother of an 18-month-old son. Ginger played basketball professionally in Amsterdam and now coaches the girls' team at the local middle school. Ginger also enjoys the outdoors and is an active member of her church. She makes monthly payments on her student loan; she also owns a home and pays a monthly mortgage. In other words, Ginger is a typical middle-class American taxpayer.

Ginger is also a fifth-year public school teacher in Pennsylvania. She has a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in business education. Ginger loves the daily interaction with her students and diligently plans educational experiences that provide students an opportunity to develop career-oriented skills for the future.

Ginger is also a victim of the Shock Doctrine. Ginger just found out that she will be furloughed or laid off next year, along with four of her colleagues, so that her district can manage a budget cut from the state of more than $1 million. Pennsylvania has a $4.3 billion deficit. The new governor cut over $500 million to public schools this year. The people of Pennsylvania were told this had to be done to help the state eliminate the deficit.

In fact, the people were convinced (shocked) that public schools needed to cut costs because, according to talk radio, public schools were wasting taxpayers' dollars. And according to Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeffrey Piccola, R, "Doing more with less is what the taxpayers are demanding."

This set the stage for the primary elections this past week (school board openings across the state) and helped the Pennsylvania Tea Party galvanize members to run for school board positions across the state. According to Pennsylvania Tea Party member Beth Roberts, "her organization hopes to encourage like-minded candidates to join the local races, particularly to try to rein in property-tax hikes used to pay for school programs." In addition to being Tea Party Candidates they also ran on a taxpayer advocate platform, arguing that regular property taxpayers were being taxed at exorbitant rates. One of these advocates specifically claimed "that people have been losing their homes because they can no longer afford to pay for their property tax? I will admit that this was a brilliant strategy. How can you possibly be against a "taxpayer advocate?" However, what were they really advocating? Simple: these people ran to get on school boards to make sure that public schools did not raise taxes, cut expenses and "shared the pain" of the state's budget deficit. In other words, these candidates were going to make sure that Ginger Claar was furloughed. My guess is that Tea Party candidates see the furloughing of Ginger as a victory. If it is indeed a victory, I believe these "taxpayer advocates" should keep a tally of their community service.

So let us begin.

  • "More than 50 students, some in tears, went to the microphone Monday night to tell the school board of Highlands School District what effect furloughing 32 teachers will have on them."
  • "Local school systems could face over a billion dollars in cuts in state funding for 2011. Deputy Superintendent of Finance Scott Austensen says that could mean more furlough days for educators."
  • "The Methacton School Board will consider asking the state Department of Education (PDE) for permission to proceed with 15 potential teacher furloughs next year at the April 26 meeting."
  • "Kelley, an elementary music and arts teacher, is one of 11 Middletown teachers who will be furloughed."
  • "While every Steel Valley School District teacher received a notice of possible furloughs..."
  • "About 400 Inland teachers are receiving final layoff notices by today's mail..."
  • "As Palm Beach County public schools cope with a budget crisis, it's the workers who likely will pay the price with layoffs, unpaid furloughs and another year without raises for most."
  • "List of Teacher Layoffs Leaves Schools Reeling."
  • "Teacher jobs on Long Island may be in jeopardy after a new study estimated more than 3,300 layoffs over the next two years."
  • "A total of 384 teachers district-wide will be laid off..."

These headlines represent an hour's worth of Googling. I'm sure I missed some. My guess is that readers probably know of more so-called taxpayer victories. Therefore, I am asking you to assist the "taxpayer advocates." To help the advocates keep track of their successes, please post them in the comments section below. As these taxpayer victories come in, I'll keep my local Tea, oops, I mean "taxpayer advocates" informed of how their hard work is paying off -- dismantling community-based public school systems and making sure that teachers like Ginger Claar are sharing the pain. After all, this is "what the taxpayers are demanding."

 

Follow Timothy D. Slekar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/slekar

FOLLOW EDUCATION